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Hazelwood Pondage as it appeared prior to the power station closing.

EPA pondage fine review

EPA pondage fine review

Hazelwood Pondage as it appeared prior to the power station closing.

ENGIE Hazelwood requests review of EPA fine

An infringement notice issued by the Environment Protection Authority Victoria for what it said was a breach of ENGIE Hazelwood's licence conditions is the subject of an EPA review.

ENGIE Hazelwood requested the review after EPA fined 'Hazelwood Power Partners' $8,261 over quality concerns about water discharged into Eel Hole Creek.

EPA Regional Manager Jessica Bandiera noted the discharge did not make a major impact on the environment, but said it was still a breach of licence conditions.

“The company has long been licensed to discharge water from the Hazelwood Pondage into a tributary of the Morwell River, and had been complying with the required environmental standard until Victoria introduced new, higher standards in 2018,” Ms Bandiera said.

“Since then, EPA officers conducting routine inspections of the premises and taking samples from Eel Hole Creek, Wilderness Creek and the Morwell River, found the results met the old standard, but not the new one,” she said.

EPA said Hazelwood Power Partners had failed to report the non-compliance to them. However, ENGIE Hazelwood said it proactively self-reported water quality issues to EPA Victoria more than 18 months ago and has been discussing a licence amendment since well before the infringement notice for the alleged breach was issued.

ENGIE Hazelwood put a submission to EPA Victoria based on a risk assessment prepared by independent environmental consultants, reflecting that the discharges do not present a significant risk to the environment, which was acknowledged by Ms Bandiera in an EPA statement.

A Licence Amendment was granted shortly after the alleged breach.

ENGIE Hazelwood said it has only been informed of one alleged breach, not two as suggested in the EPA statement.

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ENGIE Hazelwood said the predominant source of the water being discharged is the two aquifers which sit below the mine void adjacent to the Hazelwood Cooling Pond.

"The natural composition of the aquifer water cannot be altered and is the cause of the exceedances under the previous licence," the company said in a statement.

"While the former Hazelwood Power Station was operating, this water was combined with water from generation operations and as such was diluted and within the original licence parameters once it reached Eel Hole Creek.

"At the moment, the aquifer water must be pumped from the mine void to ensure mine stability. However, it cannot currently be used to start filling the mine void. There is no option except to direct it to the Hazelwood Cooling Pond."

An ENGIE Hazelwood spokesperson said "the Infringement Notice is presently the subject of an application for review, given the background of consultation on this specific matter between EPA Victoria and ENGIE Hazelwood."

"ENGIE Hazelwood would like to retain and manage artesian water within the mine void. This would remove the need to pump artesian water to the Hazelwood Pondage, and subsequent discharge to Eel Hole Creek.

"Retaining water in the mine would also reduce fire risks by covering exposed coal with water.

"We note there is no environmental risk. ENGIE Hazelwood is also pleased that the EPA has acknowledged this through the approved licence amendment, which is what ENGIE Hazelwood has been discussing with EPA for the past year," the spokesperson said.

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